Monday, January 09, 2006

14:1 Web 2.0 Educational Services

As a follow up on Web 2.0 and future education, this article explores the first of seven characteristics of future education: student driven educational services.

The idea
The idea is to convert students/employees into customer driven content providers rather than teacher driven content receivers, using Web 2.0 technologies to offer educational services, financed through Google Adsense, to potential customers world-wide. (Image from Cluetrain)

Why Web 2.0 Educational Services is a good idea
The reason for converting students/employees into customer driven content providers is that other educational forms are needed to tackle what Nordström & Riddarstråle
describes as the “social society with a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices and similar quality”. Where everybody thinks the same, no one thinks very much.

Instead of conformity, being different is the competitive advantage. More and more, this difference comes from “the way people think rather than what organizations make” (Nordström & Riddarstråle, Funky Business)
. If this is so, supporting students to not only develop their own talents and creative thinking, but also base it on real customer needs, increases in importance. Customer relations being the key differentatior in a social society with a surplus of similar products and services. Here, customers are defined as individuals with clearly defined needs, paying for educational services through money, personal networks or just paying attention.

Earning money from Web 2.0 Educational Services
With more supply than demand, customer attention has an economic value in itself. “Our attention is all we have. To give or receive. To not give or to not receive. All other value flows downhill” (Bokardo)
. Consequently, an educational service drawing attention is worth something for advertisers offering products and services related to the educational service in question. For example, offering practical guidance for immigrants in their own language.

The unit of attention is gestures, such as clicking on a computer screen. If visiting a web-based educational service results in customers clicking on ads embedded on the web-page, customer attention is converted into money for the educational service web-page owner. Money payed by the advertiser and automatically administered through, for example, Google Adsense

To improve earnings from Google Adsense
, the educational service provider need to work with four success factors (Adsensevideos):
1. Placement of ads on the web-page
2. Using key-words that generates high return
3. Provide a lot of content
4. Keep track of performance

The trick seem to be to regularly provide new content and links around key-words that draw high paying advertisers and result in high ranking on Google, ranking being important as information seekers only tend to read the first three/four search results. Not forgetting that monetizing on Google Adsense is not as easy as it seems.

Blogging Web 2.0 Educational Services
Weblogs constitute an attractive platform to offer educational services. It is free, easy to use and scalable. With Google´s Blogger
, for example, Google Adsense is integrated automatically.

Blogging is a phenomenon on the rise. With a new blog being created every second or over 80 000 blogs daily, the blogosphere continues to double every six months. As a comparison, the number of scientific journals doubles every 15 years (Bokardo
). About 55% of all blogs are active and about 13% of all blogs are updated at least weekly (Technocrati).

Blogging reflects the start of a powerful global conversation, as pointed out in the Cluetrain manifesto
, where the Internet has provided new ways to “share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter – and getting smarter faster than most companies”. These markets are conversations communicating “in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking”. Corporations, on the other hand, “will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.” This is where customer-driven student-offered educational services in the form weblogs has a real opportunity to engage business in a new kind of conversation with their customers. Web 2.0 Workgroup is one fine example of this, or this blog on building a community of practice of how to use blogs.

Learning methods for Web 2.0 Educational Services
A method that can be directed to identify customer needs is problem-based learning (PBL). It integrates theory with professional practice, where carefully selected and designed practice-related problems are used as the main basis of curriculum design. The nature of the problem serving as the selection criteria for course content.

With PBL, students/employees focus on solving unstructured real problems outside the university/company building, rather than delivering ready-made answers to predefined problems already addressed. The PBL-method consists of seven steps:

Define the problem
1. Clarify point of departure
2. Generate ideas
3. Structure ideas

Plan for action
4. Formulate learning objectives
5. Gather information and experiences

Evaluate the results
6. Present results and share experiences
7. Produce resources for others to build upon

It should be said that PBL is most successful with qualified tutors, who may not have all the answers but are skilled in structuring ideas and helping students/employees in formulating challenging and feasible learning objectives. Objectives that not only are directed towards collecting information, as is often the case, but focused on gathering experiences from trying out a solution, right from the beginning, targeted at the root causes of a problem. Thereby doing the right thing, rather than doing things right. An approach that will involve more mistakes, but that is the whole point. “The road to success is to double your mistakes”, as the founder of IBM once said. For an example of PBL in practice, click here

Coming up
For more on the seven future forms of education using Web 2.0 technologies, follow this blog. The next one coming up is: "2) Professional networks of trust".


Jeremiah Owyang said...

This is great stuff, Although i'm not focusing on educators as my primary audience (but my mother is a former teacher and now school district admin)

I'm trying to educate business folks on the whole web 2.0 thing

Check out a white paper that I co-authored with Dennis McDonald

Check out his blog at

Carl Eneroth said...

Comment from Richard Flynn:

I think that Blogging will go through a process similar to the early days of the web. At the moment there is a huge expansion, driven to a considerable extent by the fun and exploratory aspects of new technologies. However, I don't see this as lasting without some changes, most of all the financial aspects your article discusses.

At the moment specialists in all areas of education seem happy to share their ideas freely and without any income from it. I don't think this will last on the current scale. Financing through things like Adsense, which is traffic-driven, will almost certainly bring in the same SEO techniques being used. Though a small site can generate large levels of traffic, this is not particularly common, and the majority of blogs have fairly small readership. To generate the traffic, it is likely that there will be a coming together into groups, more capable of generating the kind of traffic required to finance the services. In many cases where they don't do this, or manage to do it alone, I see a lot of bloggers simply giving up, just as many early websites did.

With the low-costs of blogging and
the fact that the software does a lot of the work for people, they
should be able to adapt and change rapidly. In my area, there are
thousands of blogs and new ones start every day. I imagine that two or three years down the road, numbers will be smaller, but some very interesting groups will emerge.

Centenial College said...

This is great post !

Good article for me and others like which studying in a college. I am student in school of social work to become a social service worker.

Thnx for this nice post !